North Carolina Singer-Songwriter Caleb Caudle Widens Sound on New Album
Caleb Caudle might seem like a newer face on the Americana scene, but the North Carolina-based singer-songwriter, who’s now gaining some well-deserved widespread recognition, already has a deep discography. Caudle, who cut his teeth playing punk rock before becoming a hard-traveling solo troubadour, has seven albums to his credit, but noticeable critical fawning didn’t come until 2016’s Carolina Ghost. That record was an overtly country effort with vintage imagery and some well-worn heartbreak themes coloring Caudle’s honest, biographical lyrics. The follow-up, Crushed Coins, which was released in late February on the independent Cornelius Chapel Records, showcases broader ambitions.
Sonically, Caudle, who recently moved back home to Winston-Salem after a stint in New Orleans, still fits comfortably in the alt-twang camp. The swinging “Madelyn” is full of fiddle-driven highway reflection, and in the earnest “Love That’s Wild,” Caudle’s Southern drawl is accented by emotive pedal steel, as he sings about romantic salvation: “I was a wreck til’ you came along/Stumbling home at the break of dawn/Now we fall asleep with all the lights on.” But while writing his new record he went on a jazz bender, particularly investing his ears in Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way. He also enlisted a tight cast of backing musicians and producer Jon Ashley, who’s worked with Band of Horses, Hiss Golden Messenger, and the War on Drugs, and as a result, the record finds Caudle taking tasteful steps into indie experimentation.
“I was a wreck til’ you came along/Stumbling home at the break of dawn/Now we fall asleep with all the lights on.”
Opener “Lost Without You,” another tune sincerely praising the love of a good woman, drifts patiently through a dreamy folk landscape with cosmic guitar fills and ethereal backing vocals that hover above the song’s acoustic base. “Empty Arms” is more energetic—a pulsing dose of gospel-rock laced with Mellotron accents and necessarily scuffed with a fuzzy, freewheeling electric solo from ace guitarist Megan McCormick, who impressively works her fretboard throughout the album.
Whether he’s sticking to the roots playbook or finding ways to branch out, Caudle’s voice always remains sturdy and clear (think Lyle Lovett or Jackson Browne). It’s his best asset when he’s tackling tear-jerking subjects. In the dusty dirge “Six Feet from the Flowers,” the main character poignantly laments the loss of a spouse. Barely in his 30s, Caudle may be feeling musically restless, but his lyrics have a classic heart, filled with wisdom well beyond his years.